This was sort of a last minute trip inspired partly by Ike Jutkowitz's Pictured Rocks trips. Southeast Wisconsin is practically void of any real backpacking trails (Kettle Moraine counts, but is not terribly enchanting), and one must drive 6-7 hours to find some good hiking; most of it being in the Michigan U.P. This makes exciting overnighters tough to come by, but that didn't stop me from trying. We don't have mountains, but we do have the Great Lakes. These vast freshwater beauties have climates all of their own, have shaped a breathtaking landscape, and give life to outdoor adventures. The more I backpack and packraft around these waters, the more I am called back to them.
I first came across Newport State Park a few years ago while researching possible backpacking spots. Its small size (2300 acres) and location within Wisconsin's touristy Door County made it forgettable. However, after the holidays I was itching to get out somewhere and I gave Newport another look. Being a little more than 3 hours away made the drive palatable for an overnight. Newport is Wisconsin's only formally designated wilderness park and offers about 25 miles of trails, 13 reservable campsites, and 3 non-reseravable ones, most of which are located near the shores of Lake Michigan. In winter, some of these trails are groomed for skiing, and all are open to hiking and snowshoeing.
I also had some new gear that I wanted to test out. A pair of Keen Targhee II's, a Bear Paw floor for my Trailstar, and a ULA Catalyst. Without boring you with the details, each of those performed very well, and I was happy with each of them. If you want to know more about any of those or my other gear, please ask. I did have two gear failures. The valve on my MSR stove leaked after the first use. I suspect that ice crystals prevented the valve from closing properly. I had to leave my stove attached. My Steripen also did not work. This was my fault because I took inadequate batteries. I tested the "flashlight" function at home, but not the UV lamp. Noted for next time. Luckily a fresh snowfall provided good drinking water.
Weather was mostly clear, but cold. Daytime highs hovered in the low 20s, and nighttime temps dropped between -5 and -10F. My thermometer bottomed out at 0F, and local reports vary between the aforementioned temperatures. I snowshoed about 10 miles on trails and along the frozen shoreline before setting up camp, and another 2-3 miles back to the car in the morning.
These ice crystals formed on the mid-panel interior clips of the Trailstar from my breath during the night.